COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It's a panic-filled moment when a pet owner realizes their beloved animal is lost, but what can be done when an animal goes missing?
A total of 8,234 stray dogs and cats went through the Humane Society of The Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) in Colorado Springs last year, meaning many families felt those moments of fear, heartbreak, and stress trying to find their lost pet.
Animal Law Enforcement Officer Jordyn Decarlo said the dispatch gets anywhere between five to 10 calls a day for found pets.
"When a dog doesn't have a microchip or a collar or tag, basically we have nothing to go off of," Decarlo said. "We have to take it back to the shelter at that point, and we have to hope the owners will see the dog on our site."
Decarlo recommends tags, licenses, and microchips for all pets as preventative ways to get them back home as soon as possible.
Animals that end up at HSPPR are posted on their website, and staff works to reunite them with their owner.
"If they do come into to HSPPR, we do hold them legally for a minimum of five days," said HSPPR Community Relations Manager Gretchen Pressley. "During that time, we will try to track down an owner, we'll look through any lost reports that have been submitted."
Pressley said the first thing pet owners should do when their animal goes missing is fill out a lost report on their website as soon as possible.
Signs or flyers posted in neighborhoods advertising lost pets aren't the only effective way to get an animal back home nowadays.
"It's like losing a kid," Sara Comeau said.
Comeau lost her service dog, Kora, when she got in an accident on Interstate 25.
"She's not just my service animal, my companion, and my buddy," Comeau said. "She's one of my babies."
Besides checking in with HSPPR, posting online was a big part of Comeau's reunion with Kora. While it took almost six months, Comeau got Kora back thanks to an ad on social media.
"I called the number and my husband was already there picking her up," Comeau said. "I bawled for three days."
There are many lost and found pet groups on social media for the Pikes Peak region. Linda Gooden is an administrator for the Facebook group 719 Lost and Found Pets of Colorado Springs
"I think with social media, the word gets out a lot quicker," Gooden said. "It just kind of snowballs."
The group allows owners to post pictures of their lost pets, and people who find pets to post too.
"Everyone is going to start sharing it," Gooden said. "So before you know it, the world is going to be looking everywhere in Colorado."
Pressley said while online is helpful, posters in neighborhoods still work very well.
"I think it's a lot easier to find pets these days with everyone posting on social media. But it's also really easy for pets to get overlooked," Pressley said. "You just want to get that picture out as many places as possible."
Pressley said 60 percent of stray dogs and 10 percent of stray cats that came to HSPPR were reunited with their owner in 2017. The big key to reunion Pressley said is a microchip.
"We've been able to reunite dogs and cats that have been lost for years because of that microchip," Pressley said.
Preventative steps to keep your pet safe:
1. Get a collar or tag with your contact information on it.
2. Microchip your pet and keep it updated.
When your pet goes missing:
1. Fill out a lost report.
2. Post online about your pet with a picture. (Experts recommend social media like Facebook, Nextdoor, Craigslist, etc.)
3. Post flyers in your neighborhood.
4. Check HSPPR's found animals online and in person.
If you find a pet:
1. Fill out a found report.
2. Post online about the pet with a picture (Experts recommend social media websites like Facebook, Nextdoor, Craigslist, etc.)
3. Bring the pet to a veterinarian or HSPPR to scan for a microchip.